10 Travel Quotes That Will Inspire You To Explore The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , , ,


There's nothing like a good travel quote to inspire you to pack your bags and take off on an adventure!

I am a sucker for quotes of any kind, and you can usually find me with a pen in hand when I'm reading ready to underline a favourite quote or jot it down to reference later. It's amazing the power that one or two sentences can hold when you need a little inspiration. 

These are 10 of my faves — by authors, writers, and fellow explorers. 

Do you have a favourite quote? Share it with me in the comment section below! 

View of the Tuscan countryside from Cortona, Italy

"I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little."
—Alexander Sattler

Sunset from the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand 

"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you've traveled."
—Mohammed

Rooftops in Rome, Italy

"Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures."
—Lovelle Drachman

Halong Bay, Vietnam at dusk

"So much of who we are is where we have been."
—William Langewiesche

Pink sunset and palm trees on Oahu, Hawaii

"Travel is never a matter of money but of courage."
—Paulo Coelho

View of the Atlantic Ocean from Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia, Canada

"The earth has music for those who listen."
—Shakespeare

The red beach on Santorini, Greece

"Do more things that make you forget to check your phone."
—Unknown

Tiled rooftops in Budapest, Hungary 

"I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine." 
—Caskie Stinnett

New York City from the top of 30 Rock

"I travel because I become uncomfortable being too comfortable." 
—Carew Papritz

The top of Mt Etna, the active volcano on the island of Sicily, Italy




Start Your Trip Right! 8 Tips For A Seamless Arrival

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


You finally got your suitcase zipped-up, made it to the airport with minutes to spare before check-in closed, managed to get through security without being strip-searched, and had just enough time to buy water, a magazine, and some chocolate (I never fly without chocolate), before it was time to board.

Exhausted, you half-slept through the three movies you watched on your 9 1/2 hour flight, and you're feeling a bit disoriented — but you made it! 

Now what? 

Well, if you do these eight things, you will have a seamless arrival and be ready to get your adventure started! 

Arrive In Daylight

Try and time your flight so that you arrive during the day when business are open and there are lots of people around. It's safer if you are traveling along, and will also make exchanging money, getting to where you're staying, and finding something to eat A LOT easier. 

Make Sure You Can Handle All Your Luggage 

The best way to become a target when leaving the airport is looking like you are struggling with your bags. You don't want to be so focused on trying to lug your huge suitcase around that you forget a piece of luggage or, even worse, get something stolen. This is especially important if you are traveling solo

Keep Your Valuables Close

Make sure your passport, cash, electronics, and any other valuables are well secured. The best time to be targeted by a pickpocket is when your guard is down because you are tired and disoriented from arriving in a new place after a long flight. 

Pack A Paper Map

I know, we all have phones that will allow us to quickly look up our destination, but what happens if you don't have an international phone plan and there's no wifi? Or your phone dies? You should be able to purchase a paper map at your local bookstore or print one off before you leave. 

Have A Place To Crash

I am definitely a fan of spontaneous travel (if I am going to multiple cities or countries during a trip, I often won't book ahead). But, as a rule, I always make sure I've booked a bed on my first night in a new place so that I have somewhere to crash as soon as I get off the plane. 

Know How To Get To Where You Are Staying

Have the address of where you are going written down somewhere that is easily accessible so that you can show it to your cab driver, bus driver, or someone who you are asking for directions. This is especially important if you are visiting a country that has a language you are unfamiliar with. You don't want to mispronounce a street name and end up on the wrong side of the city! 

Exchange Money Or Take Out Cash 

If you didn't exchange money before you left home, make sure to hit the currency exchange or ATM before you leave. It's good to have some cash on-hand to pay a taxi, grab some street food, or whatever else comes up that you might need cash for. It can sometimes be hard to track down somewhere to get money when you leave the airport if you aren't familiar with the area. 

Stop By The Info Booth Before You Leave The Airport

If you have any questions about your destination, find the info booth at the airport. Actually, even if you don't have any questions stop by the info booth at the airport! The people manning them are used to speaking to foreigners so will likely speak English, you'll be able to get a map if you don't have one yet, and there will probably be some other great publications that you can pick up with tips on spots to check out in the city. 

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Your Guide To Trekking The Epic West Coast Trail On Vancouver Island

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,


The West Coast Trail will forever hold a special place in my heart. 

I embarked on this epic 75 km trek with a group of fellow trekkers that included my dad, my best friend and her dad, and three of our dads' friends. We had no idea, standing at the trail head in Port Renfrew on our first day, the adventures that would befall us, the amount of mud that would be caked on our clothing, how much our hip bones would hurt every morning, and how absolutely unforgettable every moment would be. 

Before I dive into what to expect on the hike itself, let's start with some history and logistics. 

History 

Construction on the West Coast Trail started in 1889 as part of an international communication system called the Red Route that connected the British Empire in North America to India via an undersea cable. The trail was built by telegraph linesman who had to string up wire along the coast for communication. 

The region became known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific" because more than 50 ships have gone down all along the rocky coast — almost one ship per kilometre! When you are hiking along the beach you can see some of the wrecks at low tide, and there are often anchors, buoys, and other rusted pieces of ships washed up on shore.

In 1907, the trail started to be widened and cleared in order to help rescuers reach the otherwise unreachable stretch of coastline to try and assist shipwreck survivors. Because of how isolated the trail is and how hard it is to get in and out (you literally have to carry everything on your back), there are still rusted tools left along it from this construction that took place more than 100 years ago! 

Maintenance on the trail stopped in 1954 when technology made it obsolete as a life-saving trail and it became overgrown. Then, in 1969, Canadian Parks Services sent a crew in to re-open it in anticipation of adding it into the third phase of the Pacific Rim National Park. 

And the rest, as they say, is history!

Over the years there have been incredible improvements made along the trail (considering the EVERYTHING has to be packed in), including the installation of hundreds of ladders, platforms, landings, and more.

It is now a world-class trek that attracts hikers from all over the world.

But not just anyone can hike the West Coast Trail whenever they want. Oh no, access to the trek is heavily regulated, and that leads me too....

The Reservation System 

You can only hike the West Coast Trail if you have reserved your spot using Parks Canada's reservation system online or through the call centre. In order to prevent overcrowding and cut down on environmental impact, only 75 overnight hikers are allowed on the trail at any time. So, spots are limited and fill up fast. There is a reservation fee of $24.50 per person. 

You can show up at one of the trailheads and register in person on the standby list, but there is no guarantee that you will actually make it on the trail, as it could take days before there is a cancellation or a no-show. 

Trail Facts

LENGTH: 75 km (5-7 trekking days)
OPEN: May 1 – September 30
MAX GROUP SIZE: 10 people
FEES: $127.50 per person (permit) + additional ferry fees to get you to the trailheads
ORIENTATION: It is mandatory for all hikers to attend an orientation session. This can be attended the day before your reservation. You will receive a waterproof map of the trail at the session. 
STARTING POINT: You can start from Pachena Bay (near the town of Bamfield) in the north, or Gordon River (near the town of Port Renfrew) in the South. A mid-access point at Nitinaht has recently been added if you are looking for a smaller, less intense taste of the trail. 

Packing Tips

Parks Canada has a great packing list on their website, but I thought I'd include a few tips from my own experience for you too. 

  • The weight of your pack should only be about 25-30% of your body weight at the beginning of the trip. And that includes full bottles of water. The load will lighten throughout the day as you drink water, and throughout the trip, as you eat your food and the fuel for your stove gets used up. My pack started out at about 40 pounds and ended at about 35. 
  • Bring all of the blister combating things you can think of.... ALL OF THEM (and on that note, make sure your hiking boots have been extremely worn in before using them on this trek)
  • Also, consider the other areas of your body that will rub. The skin on my collar bones, hips, and lower back was rubbed raw by the end of the trip from the waist belt and shoulder staps on my pack. 
  • Rain gear — including a waterproof pack cover — is your friend. The weather can change in an instant, and you can't slow down for it. 
  • Gaiters are probably the one must-pack-don't-forget-invest-in-really-good-ones item I would recommend. The terrain is crazy out there — sandy beaches, rocky shore, mud (SO much mud, see photo above), and you want to keep all of that out of your shoes and off of your legs. 
  • You may go an entire day without finding a water source, so you will have to carry enough water to get you through it. There are water sources at all recommended camping sites along the trail, but these could take you 13 hours of hiking to get to. Make sure you have enough water bottles with you to keep you hydrated and don't forget to bring a water pump and filter. 
  • You'll need rope to hang your food at night to keep the cougars and black bears away. 
  • Toilet paper (and a ziplock bag to pack it out) is a necessity — there are no bathrooms in the wilderness! 
  • A warm change of clothing and comfortable shoes for the end of the day. You will need to take your sweaty, dirty hiking clothes off when you stop for the night and give your feet a rest from your hiking boots.
  • You will need to have, and know how to read, tide tables. Some of the trail runs along the shoreline and you don't want to get trapped. 

A Brief Overview of What My Trek Looked Like 

My group of seven began our hike from Gordon River in the South. We arrived in Port Renfrew a day early to complete our orientation and make sure that we could get an early start on our first day. 

DAY 1
13 km to Camper's Creek

The men in our group about to board the water taxi that took us to the trailhead. 

I started full of energy and felt like nothing could slow me down — and then I hiked for 5 km straight up and felt like there was no way I was going to make it. Okay, it wasn't straight up, but with that 40-pound pack on my back, it sure felt like it was. 

There was knee-deep mud in spots (thank god for gaiters), but the scenery was gorgeous — old growth forest, ferns, moss, and the intoxicating smell of cedar. We crossed narrow bridges (basically just giant tree trunks) laid over ravines and shallow gorges and climbed up and down ladders bolted to rock faces. 

The view of Camper's Creek from the cable car — after a 13-hour grueling day, this was the most beautlful view I had ever seen in my life. 

We reached Thrasher's Cove at about 1 pm and decided (though Park's Canada recommends stopping here on your first day) to press on the 8km more to Camper's Creek. This stretch was full of wooden boardwalks, ladders, and fallen-tree-bridges, and then finally the human-powered cable car that would deliver us to the creek and beach that we would camp at for the night. 


DAY 2
9 km to Walbran Creek

These log bridges were really slippery when wet, and though the ravines below weren't especially deep, they still would have caused a lot of damage if we fell into them. 

The rain had turned the trail into a mud pit, but it didn't dampen our moods. We were hiking through the forest again, and there were more boardwalks, a cable car, a huge series of ladders bolted to cliff faces (some had more than 60 rungs!) and a long and slightly scary suspension bridge. 

It was one ladder after another at some points on the trail (note how they seem to stretch forever in the background) — not an easy feat with a heavy pack on your back (but kind of fun at the same time...). 

This boardwalk ran through an area that had been recently burned in a wildfire. It made for a beautifully eerie bit of trekking. 

Our campsite for the night. The waves echoed off the cliffs behind us which made it sound like we were surrounded by the ocean while we were sleeping. 

The last hour of this day almost killed me. Everything ached — everything. But, the reward was a sunny evening at our campsite, which happened to be nestled amongst driftwood on the beach overlooking the ocean. 


DAY 3
15 km to Dare Point

Most mornings started off misty or with a light rain — hence the reason rain gear is one of my packing suggestions. 

Most mornings started off misty or with a light rain — hence the reason rain gear is one of my packing suggestions. 

The hike on day three was a total switch because the majority of it took place on the beach! There was varied terrain — sand (not so fun with an additional 40 pounds on your back), flat sandstone (definitely easier), and large rocks (so much more delightful).

I definitely got distracted by the tidal pools that were full of starfish, purple sea urchins, and colourful sea anemones. 

We made much better time along the beach than we did in the forest, and it wasn't long before we had come upon the Carmanah Point Lighthouse and the Hamburger Hut that was located on the part of the trail that is a Native American Reserve. You can bet that we shelled out some serious cash for that over-priced burger and it was the most amazing thing I have ever tasted! 

We had to climb off the beach at kilometre 37 because that area is impassable — makes for a fantastic view though! 

We had to climb off the beach at kilometre 37 because that area is impassable — makes for a fantastic view though! 

After a brief rest, we continued along the beach, encountering a light mist at Cribs Creek that gave the coastline an air of mystery, crossed surge channels, and climbed a ladder to the kilometre 37 marker and then back down to Dare Point Beach. The beach was our home for the night and had some of the softest sand that I have ever felt in my life. 


DAY 4
13 km to Tsusiat Falls

Yet another breathtaking view along the West Coast Tral. We actually saw whales just off the coast from this viewpoint. 

Yet another breathtaking view along the West Coast Tral. We actually saw whales just off the coast from this viewpoint. 

Maybe I was just getting used to long, grueling daily hikes, but this one felt like it went pretty fast. The first part of the hike took us through the forest again and over boardwalks, up ladders, and on a ferry crossing at Nitinat Narrows (the Narrows must be crossed by boat — there's no way around it). 

After taking in the view from some pretty impressive cliffs, we found ourselves back on the beach. After about an hour of trekking, we made it to our destination for the night — Tsusiat Falls. 

Nature's most breathtaking shower — Tsusiat Falls. 

This absolutely stunning waterfall falls from a cliff right onto the beach and is one of the busiest camping areas on the trail. The best part is that it is the perfect natural shower (make sure to pack your biodegradable soap!) and there was nothing like the feeling of rinsing off four days of sweat and mud while standing under that stunning natural wonder.


DAY 5
8 km to Tsocowis Creek

With a coastline like that, you can see why it would be so hard to approach the shore by boat!

We had a slow start to the morning, enjoying the falls, the beach, and some whale watching. The hike started off inland on boardwalks, through some mud pits, and high above the ocean with amazing views. Part of the hike took us back onto the beach as well, and when we had made it to Tsocowis Creek in the early afternoon, we decided to call it a day and enjoy the sunshine. 

There's nothing better then spending a day on a stunning, sunny beach, and the coastline atTsocowis Creek did not disappoint! 

We spent the rest of the day relaxing on the beach, swimming, and exploring the tide pools. Who needs Hawaii when you have the West Coast Trail?!


DAY 6
17 km to Pachena Bay

We started the day on the beach, which was a bit treacherous because the rocks were wet (I only fell once). Once we had hit Michigan Creek, we headed back into the woods, pausing to visit the lighthouse at Pachena Point. They were selling fudge and I couldn't buy it fast enough — it was a much-needed sugar rush. 

My dad and I just minutes away from finishing this epic trek! 

From there it felt like a walk in the park after the five days that we had just had! A very deceiving start for people beginning from the Pachena Bay/Bamfield end of the trail. But, it was a nice way to end the epic six days that we had spent together. 

Is It Really That Hard? 

The short answer? Yes.

It is a grueling trek that you should not attempt unless you are in shape to do it. You are truly isolated, and if you get hurt it can take up to 24-hours for help to come (if they can reach you at all). You are contending with wild, rough, and unpredictable terrain that can force you to move painstakingly slow (the first day we moved about 1 km every hour). Plus, you are carrying a heavy pack for long hours on multiple days with tired, sore muscles. 

This is a quote from my WCT bible Blisters and Bliss: A Trekker's Guide To The West Coast Trail:

Remember that, despite trail improvements, once you step off the boardwalk, the West Coast Trail is still the same grueling trek that [has always been]. It is an isolated, prolonged and strenuous trek, that is physically challenging and potentially hazardous.

But, if you are well-prepared and ready to take on any obstacle that is thrown in your path, you will have an epic adventure that you will remember forever.

In other words, it is SO worth the pain. 

Resources

Ready to plan your trip? Awesome!! 

Here are some great resources to get you started: 
Parks Canada West Coast Trail Guide
Blisters and Bliss: A Trekker's Guide To The West Coast Trail (this book was my bible)
Hiking on The Edge

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3 Amazing New York City Restaurants You Must Experience

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


One of the most important things about traveling is eating — and not just because your travel buddy gets grumpy when she's hungry. A city's food and the ambiance in the places it is served can end up being some of your favorite, most memorable experiences.  

These are three spots that I tried on my last visit to NYC that are definitely not to be missed.

Conveniently, they are also the perfect places for brunch, a late lunch, and a light dinner with cocktails — the perfect dining day! 

Cafe Lalo

Location: 201 West 83rd St., Upper West Side, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Thu 9 am – 1 am; Fri – Sat 9 am – 3 am; Sun 9 am – 1 am
Nearby attractions: Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Children's Museum of Manhatten

Made famous by its appearance in the movie You've Got Mail (1998) featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan — it's the cafe where they decide to meet and he realizes that it's her when he sees her through the window with the red rose... 

This spot in Manhattan's Upper West Side is located on a quiet street near Central Park and is frequented by locals in the evenings who are in search of a decadent dessert or a great coffee after a night of theater. 

It is the perfect Parisian cafe outside of Paris, with bistro tables, huge windows, and deliciously flaky pastries. The cafe is also open for brunch during the week and on weekends and has the widest selection of eggs that I have ever seen or tasted (seriously, I dream about the eggs). If you go for nothing else, go for the Fresh Herb eggs! 

Visit for the ambiance as much as for the amazing food — during the day it's bright and sunny, while in the evening it's romantically lit with tiny twinkly lights — there is usually live Jazz in the evenings as well if you are interested! 

Petrie Court Café

Location: Next to the European Sculpture Court inside The Met on Fifth — 1000 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhatten
Open daily: 11:30 am – 4 pm (Afternoon tea available from 2 pm – 4 pm)
Nearby attractions: Neue Galerie New York, Guggenheim Museum, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

I'm not one to dine at the restaurants in museums. The food is usually either cheap and terrible or WAY out of my price range. But the Petrie Court Cafe in The Met has completely charmed me. Located next to the stunning sculpture gallery (if you saw recent photos from the Met Gala, it's the area that is all white pillars and sculptures with red brick walls), and overlooking Central Park (a seriously amazing view), it is a simple, posh space that is the perfect place to indulge when your feet need a break from exploring the giant museum. 

The menu is small but well curated with a French flare, and the dishes are delicious. You can eat off the menu or choose a fixed price two-course or three-course meal (I went with three for $36 — SO WORTH IT). And I highly recommend indulging in a glass of wine (or two) or a cocktail (or two) as well. I picked Cleopatra’s Needle made with Gin, Elderflower, Lemon Juice, and Prosecco (anything with prosecco has my vote), and it was the perfect accompaniment to the marble floors, the gorgeous view, and the delicious flavors in front of me!  

The Carnegie Club

Location: 156 West 56th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues), Midtown, Manhatten
Open daily: Mon – Fri 2 pm – 2 am; Sat 4 pm – 2 am; Sun 4 pm – 1 am
Dress code: Business casual
Nearby Attractions: Carnegie Hall, MoMA, The Plaza  

This Don Draper-style club may be one of the last places that you can smoke indoors in North America (okay, that's not true at all, but it sounds more dramatic). I am not now, nor have I ever been a smoker, but I just couldn't help but visit this absolutely iconic cigar and cocktail bar while in New York City. Located right near (you guessed it) Carnegie Hall, this bar is where the great performers (think icons like Frank Sinatra) have grabbed a drink after their show. 

The place has the feel of an old gentleman's club with dark, hand-carved bookcases packed with leather bound books, a huge stone fireplace, an ornate bar, and plush furnishings that create private pockets of seating. 

You can, of course, purchase cigars to smoke (and there is a huge and expensive selection if that's what you are looking for), plus there are some fantastic craft cocktails that pack a wallop. It is by no means a full-service restaurant, but they do offer some small plates if you feel nibbly. 

The bar features a Frank Sinatra show with an 11 string orchestra on Saturday nights (reservations required), but the night I went there was an incredible Billie Holiday-like singer belting out some tunes as a perfect backdrop. 

I will admit that the smoke was a bit much at first, but after a few drinks and a few hours in my wingback chair, I hardly noticed it anymore! (Let's just say it took a few washes to get the smell out of my clothes, but it was SO worth it.)

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Dining In New York City By The Numbers [Infographic]

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,





8 Sights In New York City That Live Up To The Hype (+ Packing Tips)

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , , ,


Guys, I (seriously) love New York. 

I knew that I loved it before I had even set foot in it. 

And it wasn't just because of all the gorgeous photos on Instagram or my addiction to Sex and The City. No, it just seemed to contain all of the things that I love in a city: food, cafes, museums, art galleries, shopping, parks, libraries, history, fashion, culture, quirkiness… what more could you ask for?! 

I will admit though, when I finally did make the trip I was slightly nervous that this place that I had built up in my head wouldn't live up to the hype. But, my worry was for naught, because as soon as I stepped out of my yellow cab and almost got hit by a bike messenger while distracted by a black and white cookie in a bakery window, I knew that I belonged there. 

I then spent a dream-like week wandering by all of the places I'd seen in movies and TV shows, taking in iconic sights, and trying to eat as much amazing food as possible (plus drinking allllll the coffee).

Whether you are embarking on your first trip to this epic city, or heading back for the fifth time, here are some popular spots that are definitely worth visiting. Even if you have to wait in line or fight the crowd, they're worth it — trust me.  

1. Top of The Rock

  • 30 Rockefeller Plaza
  • Open daily, 8 am – midnight
  • Admission: $34/adult, $28/child (tickets available to pre-purchase online)

You'll notice that the Empire State Building is not on this list, but the Top of The Rock, the top of 30 Rock(efeller Plaza), is.

Why, you ask? 

Because if you ride up the 70 floors to the top of this iconic art-deco tower, you get an incredible unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline that includes the Empire State Building — it's seriously breathtaking. And then, look the other direction, and you have an incredible view over Central Park (best Instagram photos ever).

The view is spread over three different levels, both indoors and outdoors, with the top level being completely open with no glass to obstruct it (pretty darn cool). The platforms are wide and have lots of space to pose for photos or just hang out. 

Added bonuses include that the admission is cheaper than the Empire State Building, it tends to be a lot less crowded, there is a Starbucks on the main floor to chill out in if you have to wait for your turn to ride the elevator up, and there are lots of shops in the surrounding buildings. Also, in the winter there is a skating rink out front, and the Radio City Music Hall is located just across the street! 

2. Grand Central Station

  • 89 E. 42nd Street (at Park Avenue)
  • Open daily, 5:30 am – 2 am
  • Admission: Free

There's just something about train stations.

People are either just starting an adventure, or arriving home from one — I use the term "adventure" loosely here, I realize that for many, this is just the way they get to and from work. Anyway, I just really loved this iconic building. 

Grand Central is one of those places that seems extra magical because of it's starring role in countless movies and TV shows. That iconic clock, the teal coloured ceiling (that has the constellations painted on it), the cocktail lounge — it's exactly the way you remember it. 

You'll also find a great information counter with maps and tourist publications here, as well as a marketplace with more than 60 shops, and tons of restaurants and eateries in the concourse. 

3. NY Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building)

  • 476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)
  • Open, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm; Mon, Thu – Sat 10 am – 6 pm; Tue & Wed 10 am – 8 pm
  • Admission: Free

Book lovers, be prepared to completely lose your shit. This library is EPIC. 

(Also, Sex and The City fans, this is the location of Carrie and Big's first attempt at a wedding where he stood her up and the bird headpiece thingy happened, as did the flower hitting on the street out front — you know what I mean.)

The building it is housed in is huge, historic, and made of marble with giant columns, elaborate staircases, and two fierce lions guarding the front door.

Highlights include the breathtaking Rose Main Reading Room and the Map Division that contains more than 431,000 maps! If you are looking for a souvenir to take home, I would swing by the gift shop which is filled with (you guessed it) unique books and stationary. 

4. Bryant Park

  • 42nd St. between Fifth and Sixth Aves. 
  • Open daily, 7 am – 10 pm (January – April & October – December); 7 am – 11 pm (May); Mon – Fri 7 am – midnight; Sat & Sun 7 am – 11 pm (June to September)
  • Admission: Free

Located behind the public library (above), this park is everything that you want in a city park — a perfect escape from the chaos.

It has a large green lawn in the middle that is used for picnics and outdoor film screenings in the summer, manicured flower beds lining wide pathways, tables and chairs for relaxing under the trees, mini cafes, restaurants, and bars so you can dine al fresco, a carousel, a giant fountain, and the lovely Bryant Park Cafe. This cafe is where my travel buddy and I spent a delightful few hours people watching and enjoying a few pints in the sunshine. 

The park also hosts regular events like workout classes, street performers, and dance parties. 

5. 9/11 Memorial

  • 180 Greenwich Street
  • Open daily, 7:30 am – 9 pm
  • Admission: Free

I wasn't really sure what to expect when visiting this memorial, but what I wasn't prepared for was how emotional I would be. 

There was a lot of construction in the area when I arrived at the station, and so had to take a bit of a detour when I got out of the subway. But the minute I walked into the square, and up to the massive footprints of the former twin towers, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. 

The names of those that lost their lives are carved into the edge of the memorials, and it seems never-ending. It is one of the most moving memorials I have ever visited, and whether you are American or not, it is worth visiting to really understand the scope of the loss that the city, and it's people, suffered. 

There is also a museum on site, which I chose not to visit because I felt like it would be too overwhelming for me (I was pretty overwhelmed by the memorial itself). The line to enter tends to be pretty long, so if you are planning on visiting, you can pre-buy tickets on the website here.  

6. The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

  • 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St
  • Open daily, Sun – Thu 10 am – 5:30 pm; Fri & Sat 10 am – 9 pm
  • Admission: Free (but admission donations are appreciated)

If you’ve never been to New York before, The Met might seem like it’s just another museum in the long list of museums and art galleries that are on must-see lists for the city.

But it is not just like the others, ohhhhhhh no my friend, it is not. (Read 10 Reasons Why You'll Love The Met).

First of all, it is absolutely giant, covering more than two million square feet! The space is filled with treasures spanning from the beginning of time all the way to the present day, all organized in light, airy spaces that perfectly suit the artifacts that are being presented. 

It is delightfully overwhelming, and you could spend an entire day in the museum (I did) and not even come close to seeing the entire collection. It is seriously up there in the top three museums I have ever been to in the world. 

7. Times Square

  • Broadway at 7th Ave.
  • Always open!
  • Admission: Free

There is no photo that I have ever seen that actually gives any sense of the size, feeling, and chaos that is Times Square. The traffic, the street performers, the buzz of the crowd, the giant neon signs — it's better than what you could imagine. 

And the difference between this place from day to night is like night and day (see what I did there…). It's still fun to wander around at either time, but there is a magical transformation that happens once the sun goes down and the famous neon signs light up the massive space. 

There are lots of shops and street vendors if you are in the mood to spend some dollars, and Broadway is nearby if you want to catch a show, or wander past famous theatres like the New Amsterdam or the Lyceum. 

8. The High Line

  • Runs from Gansevoort St (Meatpacking District) to West 34th St, between 10th and 12th Aves
  • Open daily, 7 am – 7 am (Dec – Mar); 7 am – 10 pm (April – May); 7 am – 11 pm (June – Sept); 7 am – 10 pm (Oct – Nov)
  • Admission: Free

This completely unique public park built is built on a historic freight rail line that is elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It was built in the 1930s, and ran through the (then unsavoury) Meat Packing District and Chelsea. These areas of Manhattan were industrial in the early 1900s, and the historic stone buildings, now full of lofts and cafes, were once home to slaughterhouses and warehouses. 

It is now covered in flowers, trees, shrubs, benches, tables, playgrounds for kids, viewing areas and pathways. It lifts you up off of the busy streets and places you in a quiet oasis surrounded by interesting historic buildings, beautiful greenery, and fantastic artwork.

There are permanent large-scale works and smaller temporary displays all along the attraction, and you will also find food stalls and coffee bars, and some incredible views of the city streets. 

It is definitely worth visiting, and a great alternative to taking the subway when moving between areas of the city (the Chelsea Market is located only a few minutes walk away from the park's south end!)

Packing Tips

  • Bring comfortable shoes! You are going to be walking A LOT, and this is not the time to break in a brand new pair or show off your high heel collection.
  • Layer. The temperature of the city seems to change depending on if you are on a narrow street surrounded by high rises or laying in the sun in Central Park. Plus, you will inevitably be as far away from your hotel as possible when there is a shift in the weather. 
  • Bring a bag that helps you keep your hands free. You never know when you might want to jump on a bicycle, have to get on a crowded subway car, or take photos from the Top of The Rock! You want to make sure you can have all your belongings in a safe place so you can focus on the experience rather than losing something. 
  • No, not everyone looks like they stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine. My favourite part about people watching in NYC was realizing that everyone seems to have their own individual style. While I am sure there are pockets of the city where people all dress similarly, the only consistent thing that I noticed was people who looked comfortable in what they had on. So, don't worry about having the most fashionable wardrobe, just do you!

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Destination Paris: Unconventional Things To See & Do In This Must-Visit European City

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge, Champs-Elysees — there are so many incredible things to see and do in Paris. But, with so many major sights to check out, travellers often skip (or don't even know about) the other stunning museums, parks, and one-of-a-kind sights to experience in the city. In this post, we are leaving the conventional spots behind and taking a look at some lesser known or unconventional spots that are definitely worth adding to your must-see list.

Orientation

The city is divided into 20 arrondissements (or districts) that are walkable and fairly easy to navigate. If you are looking at a map or address, the arrondissement will be abbreviated as 1e, 2e, 3e, etc. The central arrondissements on either side of the Seine are where you will find most of the attractions. 

Getting To Paris

There are three airports near the city. The largest is Charles de Gaulle, and the smaller two are Orly and Beauvais. There are airlines flying into Paris from all over the world, you should have no problem finding a flight. 

Once you arrive, you heave a wealth of options to get you into the city centre. There are city busses, shuttle busses, the RER (train), and taxis available at all three airports. 

The T2 Transfer also offers a private shuttle service that will get you right into the city centre from the Charles de Gaulle airport, or take you straight to Disneyland Paris (see below for more info). You can pre-book on their website and even arrange extras like car seats for the little ones if you need them. 

Getting Around

Bring your walking shoes, because the best way to get around the city is using your feet. There is so much to see, and a many of the sights are relatively close together. In lieu of walking, you can always grab a city bus, the metro, or the RER (train). 

You can also rent a Velib bike from one of the many rental stations all over the city. The bikes are available 24/7 and their stations are located 300 m from each other in the city centre. 

What To See & Do

As I mentioned above, there are so many amazing things to see in Paris, so in this section I am skipping the biggest, most well-known sights and am going to introduce you to some other spots that are definitely worth checking out. 

The Catacombs
According to ancient Roman law, when Paris was founded, cemeteries were located on the outskirts of the city. It didn’t take long for the city to spread well beyond its walls however, and eventually these cemeteries were completely surrounded by homes, stores, churches and schools. With this growth in population came a growth in disease, plague, epidemics, and starvation, which filled the remaining spaces in the 200 cemeteries at an alarming rate. 

Finally, in 1785, the Council of State pronounced the removal of all bodies and bones from the city’s cemeteries, in order to try and stem the spread of infection. The bones were taken to the old quarries, tunnels that ran under the city left behind from excavating stone for building. These excavations were stopped in the early 1770s due to the risk of cave-ins on the Left Bank and the tunnels were never filled in. Now, the bones of over 6 million people are stored in the labyrinth of obscure galleries and narrow corridors that make up the Catacombs of Paris.

During World War II, the resistance set up headquarters in the confusing maze of tunnels and there is also speculation that secret societies have held meetings by candlelight in the eerie corridors at night. 

Tours are available every day except Mondays and holidays. 130 spiraling steps will take you 20 meters below the streets of Paris to narrow, damp tunnels (NOTE: Do not visit this attraction if you are claustrophobic).

 It is an incredibly moving and eerie place to visit. but after an almost 2 km walk through the cold mass grave, I couldn’t climb the 83 stairs back to the surface fast enough. I have never appreciated the sun more than I did stepping out of that damp, dead darkness. 

The Passages Couverts
If you are anything like me, one of your favourite things about travelling is finding those spots that transport you back in time, and for just a moment you can pretend that you are part of the era that gave birth to artistic genius, architectural marvels, or mysterious cultures.

The passages couverts (covered shopping passageways) in Paris, France are one of those spots. These shopping arcades emerged in the 19th century, during a time of relative peace, prosperity and the rise of the industrial class. Paris was notorious at this time for being overcrowded and not having any sort of sewage, drainage or walkways. These passages were the first places that allowed shoppers the ability to stroll from store to store, blissfully apart from the filth and noise of the street.

These passages soon became a top attraction in the city and were THE destination for those visiting from the surrounding provinces. At the peak of their popularity, there were more than 150 of these covered shopping and entertainment Meccas — shopping was not the only reason to pay these spots a visit. 

Sadly, it was the opening of the city's first department store in the mid 1800s that caused a sudden drop in popularity of these once bustling destinations and now there are only a few dozen left. They are completely worth visiting however, as they showcase some fantastic architecture and take you on a quiet, off-the-beaten-path-tour through some pretty cool parts of the city. Some of them are completely deserted, some still have shops, cafes, and even hotels in them, but all evoke images of 19th century men in tailored jackets and women with parasols shopping, socializing and being fabulous Parisians! 

Musee Rodin
Rodin is most well known for his sculpture The Thinker, but he created a wealth of work including sculptures of famous friends and politicians, and incredible studies of the human body. 

His sculpture is absolutely breathtaking in person, he had a way of making stone look deliciously supple and expressive. 

The work is displayed in the beautiful, historic Hôtel Biron, a stunning example of Parisian rocaille architecture. As an added bonus, the museum also comes with a manicured park that covers nearly three hectares — the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine. 

Admission to the museum and gardens is 10 Euros, but you can pay just 4 Euros to access the garden and outdoor sculptures. 

Jardin du Luxembourg
The Luxembourg Gardens are one of my favourite places to people watch and relax when visiting the city.

Locals flock to the park at the end of the day and weekends, enjoying live music under the trees, a cappuccino from the park cafe, a turn on the carousal, a stroll through the manicured pathways, or sitting on one of the green metal chairs in the sunshine. 

It is a lovely place to soak in the true Parisian way of life. 

Rue Mouffetard
I discovered this charming cobblestone street because it is where my favourite hostel in the city is located. Even if I don't stay there, I can't help making my way to the street on every visit — it contains all the stereotypical charm that you could hope for in Paris. 

Cobble stone streets lined with cafes (see image at the beginning of the post), bars, and restaurants have tables spilling out into the open air. There are grab-and-go spots for crepes, small squares with little fountains, and bakeries with fragrant breads and croissants on offer all day. It is located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, and right on the edge of the University area, so there is always an atmosphere of joie de vivre to be found! 

Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise
Taking a stroll through a cemetery might sound morbid, but in Europe, 19th century cemeteries are big attractions. Yes, there are ‘quirkier’ visitors that are there to hold vigil for hours in front of the graves of famous figures (Jim Morrison’s grave attracts crowds in droves), but the majority of visitors are your plain old average tourist.

Surrounded by thick stone walls that create a peaceful sanctuary, the Pere Lachaise is laid out like a city with street names and green spaces.

The opulent mausoleums are a study in architecture of the different time periods they were built in, and elaborate grave markers, representing the life of the deceased, turn these burial places into verdant sculpture gardens. In the light of day, these places are like beautiful, outdoor museums. 

There are maps of the cemetery available at the entrance (trust me, you'll need one!) 

Disneyland Paris
For those of you who are super-fans of all things Disney, visiting the European version will already be on your must-see list, but for those of you that aren't, here's why you might want to add it.

I admit that I was skeptical of visiting this attraction on one of my trips to Paris, but my travel buddy really wanted to go, and so I gave in. But I was pleasantly surprised.

True to Disney's style, the park is incredibly clean, full of food that reminded me of home (which was wonderful because I had been away from home for 6 months at that point in time), and had all the best rides and attractions that you would find at other Disney Parks. It was easy to enjoy in a day, not too busy, and a wonderful respite from the non-stop days of absorbing mind-blowing culture that we had been having. 

If you are looking for a silly escape or a reminder of home, I highly recommend it! The best part? You can get a shuttle straight there from the airport

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